Thursday was the NFL trading deadline—moved back from Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast—and we have two trades of consequence to over-analyze, um, I mean "break down."
The headliner is the trade between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Pats sent their fourth-round pick in next year's NFL draft for the Bucs' seventh-round pick and starting cornerback, Aqib Talib.
This is an interesting exchange on many levels, but to me the most interesting aspect is that the Patriots were willing to part with a midround pick for a guy who will be serving the last game of a four-game suspension when the Pats come back from their bye week and take on the Buffalo Bills.
Talib won't be allowed to have any contact with the Patriots coaching staff until the Monday before the Pats take on the Colts in Week 10.
This all means that the Patriots have decided to rent Talib's services for seven regular-season games (along with however many postseason games the Pats end up playing). After that, Talib is set to become a free agent in 2013.
I don't mind the move, especially considering how poorly the Patriots have played in the secondary so far in 2012, but it has more than its share of risk.
The Buccaneers had been trying to shop Talib since before last April's draft. At the time, he was dealing with an aggravated assault charge. First-year Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano had made it abundantly clear throughout the offseason that he was shipping out guys who he considered troublemakers or who had character questions.
From the release of Tanard Jackson to the trade of Jerramy Stevens, there was a new sheriff in town.
Well, after not finding a trade partner during the offseason, and after charges were dropped against Talib, the Bucs went into the season apparently content to have him play corner for them in 2012 and then to let him walk in free agency.
That is until Schiano's old friend Bill Belichick came calling, in desperate need of help for his beleaguered secondary.
You have to think Schiano did a fairly good sales job here. Talib's suspensions—the current one for violating the the National Football League’s drug policy (reportedly for Adderall) and a previous one for violating the league's personal-conduct policy, as well as a few other incidents—are major red flags.
For Belichick to invest a fourth-round pick with the inherent risk that Talib could be lost to suspension again, and possibly for an extended period of time, is telling of how truly desperate he is to fix his secondary.
It's also an understandable gamble when you look at the trouble the Patriots have had drafting and developing players at the cornerback position. To put it charitably, they've been terrible in this regard.
Investing a fourth-round pick on a player you know can not only play, but step in and start for you, somewhat mitigates the loss of the draft pick.
However, if Talib plays well and hits the market, there's a very real chance the Patriots have used a fourth-round pick on seven-plus games of production, in addition to leaving the Patriots a bit bare when it comes to next year's draft.
The Pats now have their first three picks in 2013 and then no other selections until the seventh round (where they have their own and the pick they just acquired from the Bucs).
With all of that said, Talib is exactly what the doctor ordered for Belichick's ailing defense, which is why he was willing to give up more than any other team probably would have.
He is getting an excellent press-man defender who is bigger and more physical than anyone currently playing corner in New England. Talib also possesses excellent ball skills, which is a welcome addition to a group who appear lost when they are asked to find the ball in man coverage.
For the Buccaneers, you have to think the play of Leonard Johnson, an undrafted cornerback out of Iowa State, helped facilitate this move. He has played quite well in the limited time he's had to show what he can do. Johnson had a particularly nice game against Percy Harvin last Thursday night.
The Bucs now have a midround pick for a player they didn't want and would have most likely let walk in free agency. That's just a great move by general manager Mark Dominik.
In my book, both the Patriots and Buccaneers are winners out of this trade, with a slight nod to the Bucs. I think the Pats will be holding their breath all year, hoping Talib stays out of trouble. If he can, he's an excellent addition to their defense and should help stop the bleeding for the pass defense.
This move is a bit more mystifying to me. While I understand what both sides got out of the Talib trade, I'm not entirely sure what the Lions get in the Thomas (except maybe a sure set of hands to field punts).
I do think Lions general manager Martin Mayhew thought he needed another wide receiver after Nate Burleson was placed on injured reserve. The Lions feature a bevy of three- and four-wide receiver sets on offense, and having depth at the position is certainly key in that regard.
However, while Thomas is a decent talent, he is not going to be taking snaps from Calvin Johnson, Titus Young or Ryan Broyles. Or at least he shouldn't.
Yes, he will most likely be used exclusively in the slot and will certainly be an upgrade from Stefan Logan on returns. But even a fifth-round pick in 2014, which is what the Lions gave up, for a guy to come in on a rotational basis at best just seems like overkill.
For the Jaguars, they know they're not going to the playoffs, and they know they need an influx of new, young talent on both sides of the ball. The best way to do that is through the draft, and every bit of ammunition helps in that regard.
This one goes to the Jaguars, one of the few good moves Jacksonville general manager Gene Smith has made in the last few years.
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